Carol Stillwell and Robin Busch have reached monumental milestones in their careers - each observing the 30th anniversary of their employment with Ohnstad Twichell Law Firm in West Fargo.
Stillwell started her career in February 1982, while Busch came on board in May of that same year.
Both agree that the years have flown by and describe the start of their association "as seeming like only yesterday."
To observe the longevity of their endeavors and as a precursor to what hopefully will be many more years in their respective positions; a special open house is being planned in their honor on Tuesday, March 13, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Ohnstad Twichell Law Firm, 901 13th Ave. E. Those attending will have the opportunity to visit and reminisce with Stillwell and Busch, while enjoying coffee and cookies.
Originally from Lidgerwood, N.D., Stillwell graduated from high school there and went on to enroll in the North Dakota State College of Science at Wahpeton, in the legal secretary program graduating in 1981. She worked short term for two insurance companies before joining Ohnstad Twichell.
Shortly thereafter, she and her husband, Dave, moved to West Fargo and have called the community home ever since, raising their two children, Lucas, a senior at West Fargo High School, and Emily, a sixth grader at Cheney Middle School.
Stillwell's years of service have evolved from file clerk to word processing, eventually combining that with paralegal duties she continues to be responsible for today. "It all just stuck and I've been doing it ever since," Stillwell said. "This is a busy office and I really enjoy it that way. I don't usually have to look for work."
Her focus has involved the municipal law, bonding and water law areas, working mainly with attorneys Brian Neugebauer and John Shockley.
She also had the privilege of working with firm founder Manfred Ohnstad, now deceased, and Dick Twichell, who has since retired. "Dick still drops by to say hello," she said with a big smile. "He is kind of like a dad. He has to stop in and check up on his kids."
Stillwell lauds the positive working environment at Ohnstad Twichell saying it is second to none. "If you do a good job, you will hear it; and if you catch something that someone has missed that needs correcting, they thank you for doing that too. They are always so great to acknowledge that you've gone above and beyond."
Stillwell said testimony to this great work ethic is verified by several employees who have left for one reason or another and then returned. "That just has to say something about the firm. Everyone gets along really well. If somebody is gone, we all pitch in to get the job done, whether it involves our work area or not. The people are wonderful and it really is a great place to work."
Besides her professional duties, Stillwell's position has also allowed her the freedom to participate in a variety of community groups and organizations, including the Jaycees, the West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, being a member of the first Citizen's Police Academy, and serving on the West Fest committee, a position she still relishes today. "They have encouraged this kind of involvement and that has been just great."
On a more personal note, she has also helped out through the years at Faith Lutheran Church, where the family is members, teaching Sunday School; and in the community and schools as a dance mom and class parent for the last couple of years helping with kid's theatre, including makeup and set work.
Stillwell said the one element she has enjoyed the most during her three decade span is the people relationships - fellow employees and the clients she's come in contact with, many of them only as repeated telephone contacts. "I've been here so long, and even though we may never have met face to face, I just feel a great connection. I've been able to talk to all the auditors in a number of different communities on a regular basis through the years, and it has just been so much fun getting to know all these people."
"Yes, Ohnstad Twichell has been a great place to work," Stillwell reiterated. "The time so far has just gone by way too fast, but as long as they want to keep me here, I won't be going anywhere."
Busch is originally from the Detroit Lakes area. Following graduation from Audubon High School, she attended Moorhead Technical Institute, now known as Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Moorhead, earning a legal administrative assistant degree.
Busch joined Ohnstad Twichell in May of 1982, beginning as a legal secretary. She was promoted to paralegal a short time later serving in litigation, bankruptcy, and domestic relations areas. She later continued her studies through continuing legal education and classes at Moorhead State College, working toward a Legal Assistant degree.
She was involved with and assisted in the opening of Ohnstad Twichell P.C.'s downtown Fargo office in 1994, spending several years there before returning to the West Fargo location in 2003 continuing to work in litigation and domestic relations areas of law.
For the most part, her early days were spent working alongside attorneys Duane Breitling and Lee Hagen (both retired). She has since worked for the litigation/transactional law attorneys, spending most of her time working on cases with attorneys Michael Nelson and Robert Hoy.
In her work in the litigation area, she assists attorneys in all phases of case investigation, organization, preparation and serves as client liaison. She also helps out in domestic relations as time permits, specializing in child support issues and calculations in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Busch has enjoyed the diversity that comes with the litigation area of law. Her role allows her to work on an ever-changing palate of cases in a variety of venues including multi-State Federal and State District Courts, administrative proceedings, alternative dispute resolutions, etc. It allows her to be involved in working on a personal injury case, researching Medicare Reimbursement issues, assisting a client in obtaining cattle grazing permits and being involved in the processing of a divorce proceeding, all in the scope of a couple of days. It is never boring.
Traveling from Lake Park each day where she resides on Big Cormorant Lake with her husband, Steven, Busch is also grateful for the flexibility her position affords, giving her extra time for the commute back and forth and the opportunity to work remote as the need arises.
"The flexibility has been wonderful these past few years," she said. "The fact that they afford me the flexibility to allow me to start my work day a little later in the day has been a definite plus in in my job."
"Ohnstad Twichell is indeed a very family-friendly place to work," Busch continued. They strive to accommodate their employees' familial commitments and needs including medical and Family Medical Leave Act leaves, which she has had the need to utilize on several occasions.
Busch devoted a number of years as a member of the Red River Valley Paralegal Association, serving early on as vice-president and later as south region director. Away from the work setting, she spends any time available either at the lake or in Hawley with her son and daughter-in-law, Cody and Sheree, and her "fabulous" grandchildren, Alexandra 8, and Aiden, 5.
Right now, Busch said she is happy balancing her personal time with her professional career and is looking forward to several more years of service at Ohnstad Twichell. "I appreciate that at the early stages of my career, I was fortunate enough to be hired by and grow with a firm of such high integrity."